Man rescued from car fire speaks with 18 News

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – “What can you say to someone who possibly saved your life?”

Richard Pinelli is lucky to be alive thanks to the actions of his 18-year-old neighbor.

Pinelli, 91, spoke to 18 News about how grateful he was that Sean Clark and his mother were able to help him out of his car when it burst into flames Thursday morning.

Pinelli was on his way to a doctor’s appointment when he didn’t cut the wheel hard enough and went into the ditch.

Sean woke up around 7:00 a.m. for work, earlier than usual, and his mother alerted him of a car stuck in a ditch on Watercure Hill Road.

Pinelli said he made the mistake of revving his engine causing his tires to spin. This led to the front end of his minivan catching fire. Pinelli was unable to get out of the driver’s side of his car because of how deep the ditch was.

Sean sprung into action, kicking in the car door as the fire began to grow under the hood.

Once the door was open, the Pinelli grabbed Sean’s arm and Sean pulled him out, taking him to safety while his mom called 911.

Pinelli was checked out by first responders and then taken to the hospital for an MRI. Sean’s mother waited for him and took him home after he was cleared.

The East Hill Volunteer, Baldwin, and Breesport Fire Departments were called to the scene. Fire officials tell 18 News that the engine compartment was fully involved in flames when they arrived.

A graduate of Elmira High School, Sean now goes to Corning Community College and says he would do the same thing again.

“You have to what you have to do. Now looking back it was definitely a dangerous situation and a lot could have gone wrong but I am still thankful I did that because it could have been a lot worse if me and my mom didn’t find him when we did.”

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